A quick update from Yonder’s Harvest Festival

October 16th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival is underway. Or will be soon, depending much on which bands you want to see.

The Main Stage opens in about three minutes with Eureka Springs’ Mountain Sprout, a blend of high energy bluegrass and dirty jokes.

As for everything else so far, it’s been a fantastic morning. It started on the chilly side this morning — something like 42 degrees. It’s only gotten warmer, and if there are clouds in the sky, there aren’t many. In other words, it’s a fantastic start to the day.

I’m off to see Mountain Sprout, The Jayhawks, Trampled by Turtles (who sounded fantastic during their sound check, by the way) and Yonder Mountain String Band. And no doubt some others along the way.

Come back early tomorrow, when, Internet connection permitting, I’ll post some photos and a review of the Thursday shows.

The 10 bands you must see at this year’s Harvest Festival

October 15th, 2014 at 9:47 am

Music festivals feature a never-ending assortment of choices. If you haven’t thought about what to pack, what to wear and what to eat and drink while at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, well, you haven’t spent as much time thinking about the festival as I have.

And that’s before ever getting into the music, a dizzying array of tunes that rarely stop. What’s worse, the shows sometimes conflict because there are four stages, often operating simultaneously. Music technically starts at 7 p.m. today (Oct. 15) for early arrivals, and it continues through the early morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19).

I can only make suggestions on what to pack and wear, and I can likewise only make suggestions about what to see.

But I can tell you my Top 10 most anticipated sets of the festival. Look for me at all of these. I’ll be the one dancing like a madman.

10) The Oh Hellos — 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Main Stage

This folk-pop group from Texas rarely plays together. You’ll like them if you like The Lumineers or charming vocal interplay.

The Oh Hellos perform “Hello My Old Heart”:

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9) The Bottle Rockets — 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Backwoods Stage

One of the pioneers of the alternative country movement, The Bottle Rockets play music with big flourishes.

The Bottle Rockets perform “Radar Gun”:

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8) Everyone Orchestra — 12:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Harvest Tent

The Everyone Orchestra includes just about everyone on the festival grounds. It’s unpredictable, but often charming.

A sample from the Everyone Orchestra‘s performance at last year’s Harvest Fest:

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7) Carolina Chocolate Drops — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Main Stage

This band’s pure take on traditional music is a throwback, yet it also breaks new ground at the same time.

Carolina Chocolate Drops perform “Leaving Eden”:

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6) The Devil Makes Three — 4:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Main Stage

One of those bands that just keeps growing in popularity. The Devil Makes Three will be much bigger than they are now, and soon. Trust me on this one.

The Devil Makes Three performs “Do Wrong Right”:

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5) The Steel Wheels — 1:45 p.m. Oct. 18 on the Main Stage

The Steel Wheels have previously visited the area for sets at The Fayetteville Roots Festival, and I’m glad to have them back. When they launch in to vocal harmonies, it’s breathtaking.

The Steel Wheels perform “Valley”:

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4) Yonder Mountain String Band — several to choose from, but I’m going for 10 p.m. Oct. 17 on the Main Stage

The festival’s namesake offers nearly eight hours of music during the event, split over three days. I’m curious to hear the Colorado group play with their new lineup, which debuted this summer.

Yonder Mountain String Band covers Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”:

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3) Andy Frasco — 2:15 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Harvest Tent

Andy Frasco throws a party. If you think you can’t stay up until 3 in the morning, Frasco will prove you wrong.

Andy Frasco covers the Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” at last year’s Harvest Festival.

Notice – this one has some rock star language:

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2) Trampled by Turtles — 10:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

Trampled by Turtles blend the best of old-grass and new-grass. These guys can play any speed and any style they choose.

Trampled by Turtles perform “Repetition”:

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1) The Jayhawks — 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

I’ve loved The Jayhawks for a decade, but a hiatus and a departure of a member stopped them from touring before I could see them live. I was heartbroken when they canceled their scheduled 2012 appearance at Harvest Fest, and I expect to be overjoyed on Thursday when I finally see them.

The Jayhawks perform “The Man Who Loved Life”:

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What you need to know about Harvest Fest 2014

October 14th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of about 50 playing this weekend at Yonder Mountain String Band's Harvest Music Festival.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of about 50 bands playing this weekend at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival.

As we near the beginning of Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, I really don’t know what else to say.

If you like Americana and bluegrass music, you should go. If you like camping, you should go. And if you like scenic Arkansas, well, you should go.

14x8_5 - Inside - Landscape - Double ParallelHarvest Festival’s combination of these elements makes the event, as festival director Bret Mosiman describes it, the perfect weekend to get your camping gear out one last time. I spent some time talking to Mosiman about the festival, and I published a story [Note: Subscriber content] in Friday’s What’s Up! section that previews the event, which begins Thursday (Oct. 16) on Mulberry Mountain north of Ozark on Arkansas 23. The event concludes in the early morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19).

Here are a few tips for those of you heading down to the mountain:

Ben Kaufman of headlining act Yonder Mountain String Band

Ben Kaufmann of headlining act Yonder Mountain String Band

• The weather at Harvest Festival is notoriously fickle. You might have even viewed a long-term forecast that shows perfectly clear skies. But it rained a tremendous amount in the region in the days leading up to the festival, so I’d pack some rain boots just in case. The worst that happens is you have to leave them in your vehicle all weekend.

• Ditto on a light rain jacket. Pack one just in case.

• Festival organizers have put together a pretty handy travel guide, with packing tips. It summarizes it as well as I can: yonderharvestfestival.com/travel-guide/

• The travel guide mentions this as well, but I’ll emphasis it again — drink a tremendous amount of water.

• Pack a camping headlamp. They are invaluable for late-night trips to the restroom.

• Music is the focus, but there are plenty of other things to do in the immediate area. There’s a nearby waterfall hike everyone should make. The trail head is near the main stage.

P.S. Come back tomorrow, when I’ll preview the festival’s Top 10 must-see acts.

Soon in tunes: Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Oct. 16 at George’s

October 13th, 2014 at 10:49 am

Chris Robinson Brotherhood photo by Matthew Mendenhall

Chris Robinson Brotherhood photo by Matthew Mendenhall

Better known for his work with The Black Crowes, Chris Robinson has taken his band-leading duties to his own project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. It’s that project that will visit George’s Majestic Lounge on Thursday (Oct. 16) for a show in support of the band’s latest release, “The Phosphorescent Harvest.” Admission to the 9 p.m. show is $18.

Concert review (kinda) — Foster the People at the AMP, Oct. 9

October 10th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Fitz and the Tantrums. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Fitz and the Tantrums. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

All the gear was onstage, and the soundcheck was complete, or very nearly so. A roadie had already placed a full setlist on the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion stage, and I know this because I was three feet away from the edge of the stage in the photo pit. I even took a photo of the setlist in preparation.

And then … nothing.

Well, not nothing. Lightning and rain and winds postponed the start of the Foster the People the show last night (Oct. 9), and this was after Fitz and the Tantrums cut their opening set short due to the same weather concerns. They said they wanted to give the crowd as much time as possible with the evening’s headliner. The set change commenced, and then we waited.

When venue manager Brian Crowne stood before a crowd of 5,000 or so packed into the Rogers venue and told them the show would be delayed, he got a smattering of boos.

The setlist that almost was...

The setlist that almost was…

But you know what? I think officials at the AMP got this one right. Or at least mostly right.

It may not have been the concert many people envisioned. French multi-instrumentalist Soko played her full set. I got there too late to catch most of it, but the crowd seemed enthusiastic. Fitz and the Tantrums roared out of the gates with energy that never flagged until they shut it down on accord of the incoming weather. They played a too-short blend of soul and ’80s-inspired pop, a rare band without an electric guitar that still captures my interest. A lot of that enthusiasm is owed to dueling lead singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs. They rarely stopped moving, particularly Scaggs. Foster the People had a lot to live up to, considering.

Then the rains came.

To my knowledge, the conditions never reached published severe weather thresholds, officially defined by the National Weather Service as a storm producing winds 58 miles per hour or greater and/or hail an inch or larger in diameter. But there was lightning, and no one wants to be caught in a large open structure with water in the ground in such conditions. The Southeastern Conference, of which the Arkansas Razorbacks is a member, postpones a game by 30 minutes any time a lightning strike is recorded within eight miles of a stadium. That kind of thing isn’t exclusive to sporting events, of course — Glastonbury, the massive music festival in England, shut down some stages earlier this year due to storms. The AMP has a weather policy — events are rain or shine, but that blanket statement doesn’t cover severe weather. Those situations are monitored in consultation with a meteorologist as they develop.

Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums

Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums

What resulted from the situation on Thursday evening at the AMP were condensed versions of the sets by both Fitz and the Tantrums and Foster the People. Fitz played for about 45 minutes. I understand Foster the People got about an hour of stage time after a delay of slightly more than an hour. But I took off for my home in Fayetteville when the delay was announced. Several left at the same time I did, and I’m not sure how many waited around.

That meant a less-than-idyllic concert experience, but I’m not sure how else the situation should have been handled. If we can all agree that the venue needed to be cleared out for a while — and let’s agree to that, shall we? — the safer option is inside a car, which is where AMP officials instructed everyone to go. The only folks who didn’t comply promptly and orderly were those holding a still-full beer. Every fan still in the venue five minutes after the weather warning was trying to suck down a beverage.

The only problem with the “get to your cars immediately” edict comes for those who don’t have cars, and I know I saw some teenagers who were dropped off early in the evening and were huddled near the gates as I left, hoping for shelter or an earlier-than-expected ride home. In such an event, there must be a safe spot for the displaced to go, and I’m not sure where that was last night.

The assembled masses were initially told to expect a 30-minute delay, and when 30 minutes passed and there had been no update, people started flooding the venue’s social media channels seeking answers. They got one about 20 minutes later, telling fans that the delay continued. Ten minutes after that update, the start of the show was announced. The AMP should have provided a more immediate update at the 30-minute mark — fans were just sitting in their cars waiting, after all.

But waiting for the worst of it to pass and then moving forward seemed to be the best available of some less-than-desirable options. One option, of course, was to try and reschedule the whole thing, but that made very little sense, considering two of the bands had already played and this was the last event on the outdoor venue’s calendar for the year. I really think everyone would rather be at the AMP during an October rainstorm than during a January ice storm.

Another recourse would have been a cancellation and a refund, but that’s not ideal either. Some people didn’t get the full concert they anticipated on Thursday (it was shortened by 30 minutes, maybe), but I suspect the thousands of dollars that would have went out as a refund would have cut into the venue’s booking capabilities for the following year. Which would you rather have — one fewer show next year, or a reduction by a third of one in the current season?

Perhaps there are third and fourth options I don’t know or didn’t think of.

But we learned a couple things last night — this region is ready to support larger indie rock acts, and you still can’t predict October weather.

P.S. If your night was radically different than the one I experienced, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below, or email me.

The weekend in live music, with Phantogram and more

October 10th, 2014 at 5:03 am

Phantogram photo by Timothy Saccenti

Phantogram photo by Timothy Saccenti

It’s been quite the week for live music.

I watched Santana to kick off the week.

I watched J. Roddy Walston and the Business on Wednesday (Oct. 8) night. That concert got a little rowdy. Rock ‘n’ roll lives.

I also watched Foster the People and Fitz and the Tantrums last night (Oct. 9) at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. More on that later (Hint: Check back soon for a review).

That does not mean the music stops. In fact, it just keeps going. That’s what you’ll find in the list below.

Electro-pop rockers Phantogram are on the bill this weekend at the Austin City Limits Festival in Austin, Texas. They’ll take a pit stop on the way to their Sunday show for a Saturday night (Oct. 11) gig at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. The New York-based duo earlier this year released the album “Voices” to critical acclaim. Phantogram will be joined by Lia Ices for the 9:30 p.m. show. Admission is $20, but good luck getting tickets for that price — this one sold out early.

On the same evening, local rockers Brothel Sprouts will release their debut EP. The band draws from influences such as Modest Mouse and The Clash for their original songs. The release party for “Good Enough” takes place Saturday at Backspace, located just off the Frisco Trail between Meadow and Church streets in Fayetteville. The show starts at 9 p.m.

The Ozark Folk Festival continues this weekend. We profiled it this week, but as a reminder, know that Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Brewer & Shipley and Danny Cox have headlining duties at The Auditorium in Eureka Springs. That show takes place on Saturday night, but there’s plenty of music happening prior to that event.

Speaking of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, former member Randle Chowning is in town this weekend. He plays at 6 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 12) for a Eureka House Concerts show. Admission is $15.

And in a rare hip-hop show for the venue, Flow Game and Big Lowe are performing on Saturday night at The Lightbulb Club.

What’s on your weekend agenda?

Soon in tunes: Foster the People, Oct. 9 at the AMP

October 8th, 2014 at 9:33 am

Foster the People

Foster the People

The California-based indie pop act Foster the People caught fire in 2011 after the release of the song “Pumped Up Kicks.” The group’s debut album “Torches” earned acclaim, and the 2014 followup, “Supermodel,” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Album Chart. Foster the People, neo-soul band Fitz and the Tantrums and French multi-instrumentalist Soko will team up for a show on Thursday (Oct. 9) at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. Admission to the 7 p.m. show is $32.

Soon in tunes: Beth Stockdell, Oct. 8 at Arsaga’s at the Depot

October 7th, 2014 at 11:29 am

Beth Stockdell

Beth Stockdell

Fayetteville harpist Beth Stockdell will celebrate her debut album, “A Priceless Meadow,” during a release party from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 8) at The Arsaga’s Depot location in Fayetteville. The CD contains a mixture of originals and traditional Celtic tunes recorded on solo acoustic lever harp. For details, visit stockdell.com.

Soon in tunes: J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Oct. 8 at George’s

October 6th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

J. Roddy Walston and the Business

J. Roddy Walston and the Business

The long-haired Southern boys in J. Roddy Walston & The Business earlier this year released the album “Essential Tremors,” which as been earning a lot of airplay on modern rock and alternative radio. They also spent much of the year on the festival circuit, appearing at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and the local Wakarusa festival. The group, which pulls from sounds made by the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Replacements and Southern soul, returns to the area for a Wednesday night (Oct. 8) show at George’s Majestic Lounge. Fly Golden Eagle opens. Admission to the 9 p.m. show is $10.

Concert review — Santana, Oct. 5 at the AMP

October 6th, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana

The Northwest Arkansas Media group was unable to reach contractual terms with Carlos Santana’s management team regarding photo permission for his Oct. 5 show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. Please enjoy this courtesy photo instead.

Santana calmly stalked around the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion stage on Sunday (Oct. 5) night. He walked with a purpose. He laid down some sweet licks. He wore two shirts during the course of his two-plus-hour show, and both of them carried his name. I’m fairly certain he was chewing gum during the early parts of the evening. He was cooler than everyone else in the venue, and by some measure.

These are the kind of things you can get away with when you’re Carlos Santana, largely considered one of the world’s best guitarists. “World” is important in this equation — it properly ranks him globally, and it makes reference to his diverse sound, a combination of American blues, Latin jazz, African tribal rhythms and a whole lot more.

It’s also the rare band that’s named for a guitarist, and not a lead singer, but Santana has earned his place. He performed at Woodstock, and he showed a brief video snippet to anyone who might not have known. He’s spend the prevailing 40 years making relevant music, and he spent his local show proving that. He offered songs from the very beginning of his career, such as “Soul Sacrifice,” a jam he played at Woodstock. He would also play a couple monster hits from the 1999 album “Supernatural.”

Santana brought a large band with him for this stop on his nationwide “Corazon” tour, named for the album he released in May of this year. With a backing guitarist, bass, a pair of lead vocalists, keyboards, a two-piece horn section and a tremendous amount of percussion, the band spent much of the evening jamming. The focus remained on him, however, and for good reason. He’s got in incredible guitar tone, and it’s instantly recognizable, too.

The concert exceeded two hours, but covered fewer than 20 songs. Yet this was a precise affair in many ways, too — Santana and company mostly followed along with the program of previous gigs on this tour, and their ability to shut off in an instant and roar back to life a second later was impressive. It also started promptly, and the portion before the encore lasted almost exactly two hours. If you were like me, and you got stuck in one-lane construction traffic just south of the venue on Interstate 49, you probably missed the opening. There was no opening act, and Santana started promptly.

He looked happy for the duration of the set, and he paused a few times to talk about love and peace and God. There’s reason to be happy — his rhythm-heavy blend is in many ways joyous music.

He left many people dancing on Sunday night.